Month and a half ago, New Years’ Eve 2017, I encountered the person who would unthinkingly, yet unequivocally, throw into disrepair my life of comparative simplicity.
31st December 2017, the most pleasant of days, at around 3 p.m. I began, what was intended to be, my steady pilgrimage from rural Mid Canterbury into East Christchurch.
The plan had been to head to the Ferrymead Speights Alehouse, where I was excited to catch up with, and rock out to, the residue of the almighty Exponents, the Jordan Luck Band – with classics such as Who Loves Who the Most, Victoria, Why Does Love, and I’ll Say Goodbye, the Exponents had been a massive part of my younger years and call me nostalgic, I wanted to relive that – then, like a true middle-ager, I hoped to cruise back home shortly after midnight.
I stopped in at a Rolleston café, drank an iced coffee (good but not as good as Vietnam’s) but unimpressed by the town’s general lack of exuberance, I soon moved on. I stopped at Hornby, drank a coffee there too, was left in further disenchantment at the all-round lack of enthusiasm, and continued on my way…
At this point my ‘steady pilgrimage’ is playing out much quicker than I had hoped, thus it’s still before 4 p.m. when I pull into Bush Inn.
…Sauntering around the practically deserted outdoor Bush Inn complex the sad truth dawned on me – Christchurch is considered the ‘place to leave’ when it comes to New Years’ Eve.
I wandered into the Mall area and performed a timely dawdle of its perimeter, passing only a handful of stragglers in the process. I stepped into the Mall foyer and hesitated, gazing though the glass doors unto the scintillating afternoon that was being presented to Christchurch’s absentee population. As I continued forward something appeared in my right peripherals; at that very moment my heart felt as though it had leapt into my mouth where I was now being forced to choke it back down.
I walked on calmly, a peculiar sense of euphoria having enveloped me, as I stepped out the Bush Inn Mall entranceway and into the warm Christchurch air. I casually turned and looked back through the glass panelling I had just exited; the sun’s glare made it impossible to see anything. I wondered if anything inside could see me; I wondered if anything inside was even looking. I turned back and stared out across the parking area, my brain seeing nothing but myriad conflicting thoughts, notions and emotions; my mind having spontaneously come under attack from a torrid combination of compulsion cum indecision.
Something triggered inside my brain; suddenly I spun and strode back into the glass foyer. Through the doors I glanced to my left; seated elegantly, wearing a crocheted black dress and nothing on her feet, both hands at her lap and carrying a Smartphone, was the most uplifting sight I had seen that afternoon.
I stepped forward and gently sat beside her. “How we doin? … Tim,” I wasted no time in offering my hand.
She appeared startled, but a moment later clasped my hand.
“I apologise,” I continued, “it must seem a little odd, given that I just passed here a moment ago, then I’ve immediately turned and come back … I was compelled.”
She smiled; it was a big smile. “You were compelled..?” she asked with laughter in her voice.
“Yes and, well, fair to say, my compulsions ultimately dictate.”
“Oh it’s a hell of a ride.”
She smiled again.
“Hey, I have some time to kill, do you feel like grabbing a coffee and a chat – I’d love to get to know you..?”
“Sure,” she said without hesitation, standing and walking alongside me out of the Mall.
“I love your choice of footwear,” I offered without irony, “I mean, a day like today, why would anyone bother with shoes?”
I witnessed her glance downwards as we walked, at my black leather boots, and appreciated the hypocrisy.
“Oh, I’m heading to a small concert later,” I quickly filled in the blanks, “sturdy footwear’s a basic requirement in seedy bars.”
We walked into a café where, honestly wondering if I could handle another coffee, I ordered two iced coffees.
Hitherto reserved, once this barefooted woman in black had some coffee and cream inside her stomach, she opened up tremendously.
She spoke about her family, she spoke about her history, she spoke about her dreams, her aspirations, her intentions and her goals; in fact conversing with this exquisite creature for as long as I did, hearing her speak with such wisdom, such conviction and clarity, such intelligence and soul, by the time we were (pleasantly) asked by the cafe manager to vacate our seats for closing time, I was utterly infatuated.
Then came the unsettling revelation…
Long black hair bordering a gorgeous face with the most captivating brown eyes I could recall, this young Maori woman seriously altered my perception of what ‘beautiful’ should look like.
…I had been able to appreciate that she was younger than I was, but not this much younger; I think it was still short of what some would consider ‘creepily younger’, although it turned out there was over a decade between us.
I honestly could not see – when two people relate so well and certainly, enjoy each other’s company as much as we did – that something so trivial as a couple of numbers were terribly important.
Evidently neither did she so, after offering her a token invitation to my impending concert – for which, after having over four hours to spare, thanks to the allure of this beautiful woman I was now at risk of being late – she gave me her number and headed home.
I drove to Ferrymead and eventually found the Speights Alehouse. I went inside and enjoyed a night of sobriety coupled with some fine musical nostalgia then, at around 1 a.m., I drove home.
The next day I was quickly reminded of the gorgeous woman I had met by chance in the day prior…
I mulled over the sequence of events leading up to and following our encounter; I thought about how, as previously planned, if I had lingered longer in Rolleston or Hornby, how this particular encounter might never have transpired. I remembered how, upon stepping outside the Mall foyer, how I’d had to wrestle with my compulsions, with the confounding sense of ambivalence that had plagued me but how, through it all, I had ended up meeting the most wondrous woman I could imagine. I thought about how easily our encounter, with a simple change in activity on her or my part, might have been missed; I drew the conclusion therefore, that for the first time in as long as I could recall, the Dictators of Fate were actually working in my favour – I felt that 2018 might just have been my year.
…Shortly before midday I sent this Paragon of Womanhood a text message, not really expecting to hear back until at least that evening.
That evening, having heard nothing via text, I gave her a ring. The phone rang eight times then I hung up.
The next day, around midday, I sent another message. I rang again that night.
I messaged her again the following day, with a phone call that evening; on the sixth ring she picked up. I stammered. I stumbled. I started blurting, mincing, and slurring my words…
Over the past days I’d been going insane. Given what she and I had experienced – the spectacular coming together of two minds, two souls; two people – I had not been able to understand what was going on, or why she’d been doing this to me. During our New Years’ Eve conversation we had spoken about most everything. I had learned that she had endured a horrific upbringing followed by an even more recent traumatic event; I had imparted my own truths about personal hardship, struggle, and trauma. It had been marvellous; I had felt that we had connected, that we understood each other. She was fiercely independent and couldn’t stand the idea of ever needing to rely on someone for anything; I shared my own views on solo living. She told me about her ongoing battle with social anxiety; I listened, nodded, understood, empathised and related to every word she said. We spoke about the modern world and primarily, about modern peoples’ treatment of each other. She was intrigued with my knowledge of world government and politics, as I was mesmerised by her perception of peace, harmony and spirituality.
…Finally my words composed themselves, “Hey … What’s been happening?”
“Oh, thought you might have been busy.”
“Alright, nice one … You feel like doing something tonight?”
Our first night together played out like a wonderful dream; I made drinks, then we sat and we talked. We were two individuals having come together as if as one; she was pleasantly relaxed and even I was oddly calm. The night passed too quickly and before long she requested that I take her home.
Following another struggle for connection I eventually got hold of her again and organised another tryst. The weather was bleak as I picked her up and began the drive home. She didn’t talk much and I initially felt something might be wrong yet, as with the previous encounter, once we were home and she was set up with a drink, it didn’t take long for her to open up. Again the night passed with frustrating velocity, and soon I was driving her home again.
The third rendezvous I put on a barbecue for her and, while it turned out she didn’t much care for the whole ‘Kiwi BBQ’ theme – not a vegetarian per se but rather preferring the vegetarian dish I had cooked for her during our last night together – I still managed to devour a few fat-infused porterhouse steaks. We had drinks, we both just enjoyed the peace, serenity and comfort offered by each other’s company; then I took her home.
Our fourth ‘date’ was equally as wonderful; the weather was cold and rainy but this phenomenal woman – who had so easily transformed my life from dull and despairing to downright exciting – despite arriving at our pick up point almost an hour late on account of sloppy Christchurch public transport, was brilliant…
It should be noted at this point that, as a firm follower of the Buddhist faith, she wasn’t as overtly salacious as many modern men may have come to expect from their women. Given furthermore her recent hardship/trauma/assault, I wasn’t about to push anything on her; I knew anything that happened between this Paragon of Womanhood and me had to be entirely her choice. That was fine; I simply adored being in her company.
…For our fifth date the weather was warmer than it had been all summer; my house had become a veritable hotbox. I cooked us more (vegetarian) food, made us more drinks, and we did what we could to stay cool. Sometime later, to my immense chagrin, the night was over. I dropped her off and drove myself home…
At that time I recall being overcome with happiness; I recall thinking, ‘2018 is going to be my year’. The next day my car passed its Warrant of Fitness without incident; I recall thinking, ‘2018 is going to be my year’. I had organised another tryst the following day and I was excited to see her again; I recall thinking, ‘yeah man, 2018 is going to be my year’.
…I wasn’t surprised at her initial lack of response the next day, I never am. It was fine, I just needed to persevere.
I persevered for days and had nothing in return. I started to wonder if I had done, or said, something wrong. I started to worry, and that was the worst thing; while I knew her reasonably well, I didn’t know this woman well enough to be able to immediately presume her safety. I went through in my mind some of the stories she had told me about her earlier hardship, also the mental and physical mistreatment; I wondered if perhaps some of those factors might again be at play – I had no way of knowing..?
Ultimately I knew nothing. I had no way of knowing anything. My text messages were going nowhere and my phone calls were going straight to Voicemail; then being the impulsive male that I am, out of frustration at being ignored I had deleted her number as well as every last trace of her from my phone. Now I was sad.
All I had ever wanted was to see that gorgeous Maori girl smile – just wanted to see her happy – but now, one month to the day since I last saw her smile, since I last saw her happy, this is becoming increasingly unlikely.
Article by Tim Walker
Edited by Tia Love
Photography by Te Reo Aroha